Interview : Deathwhite – English

DW, bass player of the American Melodic Doom/Gothic Metal band Deathwhite, answered my questions about the release of the band’s third album, Grey Everlasting.

Grey Everlasting review

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Hello and first of all, thank you very much for your time! Could you please introduce yourself and the band Deathwhite without using the usual “Metal” labels?
DW (bass/backing vocals): We are four individuals who play a heavier style of music with dark and Gothic overtones, complete with clean vocals.

How did the band meet?
DW: The four of us have known each other for quite some time. We met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is considered our home base. Deathwhite is built upon the close, long-standing relationships of its members. We played with each other in various bands before Deathwhite’s 2012 formation and were fortunate to carry these bonds into the band. Despite appearances, Deathwhite is a «fun» outlet for the four of us. We enjoy each other’s company and the creative process, not to mention whatever constitutes being in a band like ours. Due to geographical logistics, we are rarely together but are frequently in touch. It makes the time we are together quite special.

Where does the band’s name come from, and what is its link with your music?
DW: Deathwhite comes from an Omnium Gatherum song of the same name, Deathwhite. It is no secret that coming up with a quality band name is a difficult task, so we lucked into snagging Deathwhite from Omnium Gatherum, who remains a favorite. We wanted something that wouldn’t pigeonhole us and lend insight to our sound. Essentially, we can go any direction with a name like Deathwhite, but it is a strong word combination that capably conveys our musical direction.

The band is about to release its third album named Grey Everlasting, how do you guys feel about it?
DW: We are naturally excited about its release. It was the culmination of 18 months of hard work, so its release in June will be the reward. Nevertheless, Grey Everlasting is the next step in our evolution. We needed to continue to grow as a band. This meant trying new things — including heading down some extreme Metal paths. This also entailed trying to emphasize the atmospheric side of the band a bit more. We made these decisions with the understanding we would not stray from our core sound. Instead, we wanted the album to have a certain depth to it that offered plenty for listeners. 

How does the composition process happen? Was it different from your previous releases?
DW: We have a primary songwriter in the band who writes the bulk of the material. This individual demos at home and then presents the compositions to the band. It is a step-by-step process. The foundation is created with the demo(s), then it’s up to each member to add their respective touches. It’s like building a house, actually. The vocals, then, would be considered the roof. Another member of Deathwhite has recently started contributing more, which gives us two songwriters. It has benefited a process that has worked well since we started over a decade ago, but we’re always of the mind that we can improve. Grey Everlasting, though, is perhaps our most collaborative effort to date. Each member applied their own stamp, personality, “flair” whatever you’d like to call it, all with the goal in creating the best songs possible.

I feel a huge contrast between the saturated riffs and clean vocals/leads, how do you guys decide of what element have to be clean or saturated?
DW: This is a good question since we’ve discussed how some of our riffs could be replicated on acoustic guitar, which could be why we can bounce between clean and heavy parts. Grey Everlasting probably has more “riffs” than our previous albums. There are more guitar leads, too, and the clean parts are there to provide dynamics and contrast. We don’t have much of a thought process — it’s usually whatever is best for the song. Some songs call for all heavy riffs; others call for a mix. We like to have that kind of variety.

What are your influences? Whether it is musical or not, it can be some movies, books or whatever.
DW: We are influenced by standard-bearers like Katatonia, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost and Opeth, to name a few. We also enjoy quite a few non-metal bands. The four of us have wide, disparate tastes, which comes in handy when assembling songs. Still, Deathwhite was started in 2012 to follow in the footsteps of the aforementioned Katatonia and Paradise Lost, although we don’t sound exactly like them. There is a fine line between wearing your influences on your sleeve and incorporating their elements. We think we’re more of the latter.

What can you tell me about the album cover and its relationship with the music?
DW: The cover was created by Jerome Comantale. We’ve been working with Jerome since the 2015 Solitary Martyr EP and he’s almost like the fifth member of the band. We simply gave him the album title and lyrics, and he did the rest. We did, however, have one request: The cover can’t be gray. Jerome fulfilled that request and created something more colorful than before, representing the record’s contrasts of styles and themes. It also features our hooded, faceless character, whom we refer to as the “Deathwhite”.

I remember a lot of clean vocals to meet those thick and melancholic riffs, what can you tell me about this contrast?
DW: The decision is made song-by-song. There’s no formula. The vocals and riffs have to work together — there cannot be any friction between the two. A tremendous amount of thought is put into writing riffs that will fit the vocals and writing vocals that will fit the riffs. Clean vocals are the driving, integral force in our sound and we take immense pride in writing lyrics and vocal melodies. It is not easy work, but we feel this is what defines Deathwhite.

How do you decide to use harsh or clean vocals?
DW: Harsh vocals have only recently entered our sound. We will likely always be a primarily clean vocal band since we are fortunate to have a vocalist with tremendous capabilities. We feel that clean vocals are the best vehicle to convey music of our variety since there is such an onus on lyrics and themes. The harsh vocals on the song Immemorial were necessitated due to the song’s mood. We wanted the vocals to add a degree of variety and even “surprise”, if you will. We are quite happy with how they turned out, but it’s unlikely we will turn our vocal approach on its head. It’s not in the band’s DNA to do such a thing.

Since 2020, Covid-19 crisis fucked a lot of things up, how did you face the situation as a band? Did it have an impact on the album?
DW: Covid did not have a drastic impact on Deathwhite. The virus hit a few weeks after the release of Grave Image, which may have put a dent into its promotional cycle, but in the grand scheme of things, especially considering what happened in the world, it’s of little matter. We were already an isolated band. The pandemic further isolated us, which helped with the album’s creation. Writing music is optimal when you cannot leave your home or interact with the outside world. Some of us experienced significant changes in our personal lives during this time. Combined with Covid, it was a stretch of time that will forever impact Deathwhite.

Do you already have plans for the future after the release of the album ?
DW: Our immediate plans include working on a cover song. We recorded this track during the Grey Everlasting sessions and intend on completing it before summer’s end for a 2023 release. It is a song of which we are very fond. The Solitary Martyr and Ethereal EPs will be re-released on vinyl sometime this year, which is an important event since it will make all of our releases available on vinyl. Beyond that, we have already started work on the next Deathwhite album. Early signs are promising. This is nothing new, but it gets more challenging to write songs as you accumulate studio albums. We are very aware of not wanting to repeat ourselves, so we will likely put forth the same attention and rigor to studio album number four.

What can you tell me about the evolution of the Metal scene around you?
DW: We don’t pay as close attention to the Pittsburgh metal scene as before. However, there are many young bands who appear to be making some headway. And there are still quite a few bands that we came up with in the scene before Deathwhite that are active. Pittsburgh doesn’t get the recognition it deserves for its metal bands, but Code Orange has done a lot for the city and scene. Hopefully, there will be more bands to follow.

Do you think you still improve yourselves as musicians?
DW: Of course. That’s one of the reasons we do it. We want to get better as musicians and songwriters. It would be pointless not to try to improve our craft, whether that is as musicians or songwriters. You can never stop improving. We’re not looking to regress. We would hope there is some tangible growth from each album reflected in the musicianship and arrangements.

What are your best and your worst experiences as a musician ever?
DW: The worst : We’ve played our share of bad and difficult shows, which is not uncommon for any musician. Those experiences shaped the people we are today. It’s hard to learn or grow without running into roadblocks. As for the best experiences, we’ve had many in Deathwhite, namely, the writing and recording of our albums. We held extensive pre-album rehearsals for Grave Image in 2019 and they were some of the best times we’ve had as a band. It was a thrill being in the same room and refining the songs and perfecting them. It’s easy to lose sight of those experiences when the band works in such isolation. Surely we will do something like that again for future releases.

What led you to the Metal universe back in time? What was the very first album you ever bought?
DW: We each had different gateways into metal: Metallica, Children of Bodom, Pantera and Judas Priest, to name a few. We all got into metal through friends or family members and it happened during the 1990s and 2000s — a time when buying CDs and reading magazines was the only way to learn about bands. Those were memorable times. Nothing beats the excitement of getting a new album and not knowing what it will sound like, then being pleasantly surprised. Those are all cherished memories.

What do you know about the French Metal scene? Which French bands do you know and like?
DW: Gojira is the most visible French band over here and we count ourselves as fans. We are also quite into Black Metal bands such as Antaeus, Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega. The French metal scene certainly is one of the more varied and complex ones; no two bands sound the same. It’s an exciting scene. European Metal, as a whole, still remains at the forefront of the scene in terms of innovation and depth.

What if I ask you to compare Deathwhite’s music with a dish? Which one and why?
DW: This is a difficult question and we’ll give you an easy answer: A cup of coffee. Dark and bold.

Are there any musicians or bands you would like to collaborate with?
DW: A collaboration with a female vocalist or a string quartet sounds rather appealing at this stage. With some luck, it may happen. Outside of that, we don’t have much desire for collaboration. As you might imagine, we are very much a self-contained entity that does not seek collaboration or outside help. However, the day may come when we look to work with someone who could enhance our sound. That is something we will never rule out.

Last question: which bands would you love to tour with? I let you create a tour with Deathwhite as opener and three other bands!
DW: Sentenced, Thin Lizzy and Pink Floyd. Three bands that don’t sound alike, but ones we are immense fans of.

That was the last question for me, so thank you very much for your time and your music, last words are yours!
DW: Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the great interview and support. It is appreciated beyond words.

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